Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Responding To The Call and Invitation

January 4, 2017

He really didn’t like that guy, the leader of the gang. That guy had the wrong message, the wrong friends, hung out with the wrong people.

In fact, this guy was in a position to take the entire country in a different, dangerous direction.

Then one day it so happened that he met that guy. Face to face. Could have been a dangerous moment. What if the guy had a bunch of his group with him. What if there were a fight?

Of course, I’m talking about Paul and Jesus.

Paul was even a leader of the group that was killing Jesus’ followers.

But Jesus calmed Paul down. Showed him how his interpretation of Scripture was flawed. Then he set up a course of study. Oh, and by the way, gave Paul a mission. Here is the Jew’s Jew. Taught to have no interaction if at all possible with people who were not Jews. Jesus says, be my guy who goes to all the non-Jews of the world and tell them my message.

Paul’s response–I’ll do it.

I’ve been exploring responding this week. 

Have you ever known someone whom you think is just about the incarnation of evil in the world? And then you met them. You had an actual conversation. You discovered that they were really OK. Then you started working with them.

Paul responded positively to Jesus.

It changed his life, the lives of perhaps a thousand or more directly, the course of the movement, and the course of history.

Paul didn’t sit around contemplating his navel, as they say. He was out actively showing his love for God and in his way love of neighbors (although quite narrowly defined). But he was on the wrong path.

He just responded to a request to go in a new direction.

Probably the same with us. Contemplation is a good thing. But we are out in our own ways loving God and loving our neighbor. Then sometimes Jesus intervenes and whispers to us to go in a different direction.

How do we respond?

Why Do Men Still Abuse Women?

September 7, 2016

Busy Interstate Highway.

Rural area.

Truck Stop.

Do you have any idea where this is heading? Well, prostitution. The demand for prostitutes leads to trafficking in humans in order to supply the demand.

That’s happening right now just nine miles from where I sit typing this.

It’s called the oldest profession. But it’s hardly a profession like we usually picture–doctor, lawyer, engineer.

Once I had a position in an organization that had a small house in decent repair. Approached by another organization, I worked out a deal for them to use the house to offer sanctuary to women and children physically (and emotionally and spiritually) abused by a man. The house always had a population.

Domestic abuse is usually hidden. Men are seldom prosecuted for assault.

I don’t know a lot about the subject. But I read this blog post by Allison Fallon. She writes from her depths of insecurities and how she deals with them. She is an attractive, accomplished, talented woman who feels none of that. Sort of reminds me of my mom in that regard. She never felt worthy even though she also was attractive, talented, intelligent. I grew up in that environment of insecurities. I bet a lot of us deal with that.

Allison just wrote about why women stay in abusive relationships. I have no clue, of course. But she has witnessed it, and she is still puzzling it.

Service is a spiritual discipline. We strengthen ourselves through study and prayer and worship. But if we are true to our heritage as Jesus-Followers, we have to go out into the world.

I’m not sure what things I can do. But if I can help one woman escape and cope. Or prevent one more man from seeing women as object for abuse. Then maybe I help. What can you do?


He Started a Revolution And We Almost Missed It

April 7, 2016

My morning studies now involve just reading the words of Jesus. I’ve been deep in Paul for a few years and felt like it was time to visit the source.

I’ve often taught over the years about how Jesus upset the philosophy, should I say spirit, of Rome. The prevailing spirit of the time was power. He who has power, wins. Even the Pharisees played along. They just defined power as following the Law better than others did. This gave them the feeling of religious power.

Jesus upset the whole thing.

Matthew records that Jesus began his ministry proclaiming repentance–turning your life around.

Then he proceeds in his compilation of teachings to what we call the Beatitudes. And who are the blessed of God?

  • simple people
  • merciful people
  • peacemakers
  • humble, meek people
  • those who mourn
  • those who are persecuted
  • Those who hunger for righteousness

None of these would be Pharisees. Even today, in most churches we do not consider these people in our midst blessed–holy ones.

When we sit in our chair in the morning for study and prayer, maybe we need to check our attitude. When we go forth to serve, maybe we should check our attitude.

The powerful and super-confident may seem to win for a while. In the end, they don’t.


Eating Your Own Harvest

March 23, 2016

Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus.

Jesus is in his last week. He knows what’s happening. His friends? Well, they have no clue. John, writing maybe 50 years later, acknowledges that they didn’t comprehend until later the significance of the words and the events.

Here Jesus is predicting his death. He is also stating a truth. If we stay within ourselves, self-contained as individuals, then we remain just a single grain. If we die to our ego-bound individuality, then we can live a new life with Jesus and bear much fruit.

How many times have you looked at someone and thought, “Wow, so much potential. All lost down the drain. They are just so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t realize what they could be.”

It happens to organizations, too.

I saw an old friend today. We were talking about churches. About how some churches just cannot see beyond their own doors. They spend their money on themselves–their buildings, salaries, offices. Mission giving? Well, that’s on the back burner. Maybe if we get a surplus of money we’ll spend some of it.

She called it, “Eating your own harvest.”

I thought, how appropriate given the verse that I’ve been meditating on. What little harvest we do receive, we consume ourselves instead of planting to reap a larger  harvest.

As for Jesus, his single grain died and he put forth a mighty harvest. No other single person in the history of the world has had such an impact.

Living In Service To Others For Jesus

January 27, 2016

Service is an important spiritual discipline. Jesus almost always had people respond after a healing. James told us that faith without works (service) is dead.

Wycliffe, the Bible translator group, had a celebration yesterday Jan. 26 as it released 16 new translations of the Bible for language groups in Asia, Latin America, and south Pacific Islands.

It is amazing how many languages there are. In the US, we have some people who think that everyone should only speak English here. Some of these people travel and think that everyone everywhere should be speaking English. It’s only natural, I guess, when you grow up in an area where that’s what everyone  speaks.

Hearing these stories of groups of people in Peru, southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea where there is a distinct language in almost every village, would blow their minds.

The Wycliffe presenters (I was at a Presbyterian church in The Villages, Florida for a service led by leaders of the nearby Wycliffe headquarters) shared stories of people of service who dedicated large chunks of their lives to learning about a people, their language, and their culture. They did this in service so that they could translate the Bible into their language so that they could better understand.

A woman in Cameroon who had only heard the Gospel message in French only came to understand the Easter story when she heard it in her native language. That is the power of the work of these people.

Another of the powerful spiritual disciplines is study. Picking up the Bible daily and actually reading it. Almost all of us read it in our native language without thought of the translation from the original Greek or Hebrew. We rely on the translators without thinking most of the time. But the power of the message for our faith and our lives comes out of study and meditation on the word.

This is marvelous service. Makes me wonder about my service. Am I using all of my talents? And you?

God’s Grace Is Better Than Rules

January 5, 2016

One thing about rules–everyone can have their own set. And feel good about it. A set of rules that we say we’re following places us apart from other people. And at a higher plane. We feel closer to God.

When I scan the news of the day, I see self-described “Christians” or people the news media enjoys calling “Christians” doing all manner of bad or evil things all justified by saying that they are following their set of god-given rules.

Maybe that is a reason Andy Stanley likes to say that calling yourself a Christian is pretty meaningless since it’s so hard to define. Jesus-follower, though, that is very well defined and hard to do.

I’ve been deep in study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He shows his anger and disappointment in those early believers because they slipped back into being rule followers instead of grace accepters.

Very early in the journal of the Acts of the Apostles, Mr. Jewish Christian himself, Peter, is shown by God that the Gospel and God’s Grace are available to all. Forget the rules that set Jews apart from everyone else. The Gospel breaks that all apart.

Grace is sufficient.

My heart breaks when I see people who think that they are following Jesus overcome with anger and hate and drawing up rules that set them apart from others.

That is the very attitude that has driven so many people I know away from the church and made them suspicious of the Gospel.

It’s easy to see why. Would you rather join a group that is suspicious of outsiders, bound up with rules, and shuns or even hates people who are different–or join a group that is welcoming, laughs and smiles a lot, sings, helps people in need whoever and wherever they are?

Every once in a while step back and look at the groups you are a part of–church, small group, service organization. See it with the eyes of an outsider. Is it welcoming? Is it helpful? Does it reveal God’s grace to others?

If not, it’s time to either work to change it or to say good-bye and find another group.

We teach new soccer referees that the profession is the only one where you are expected to be perfect from the first minute you set foot on the pitch and then improve!

Sometimes we treat people coming into church the same way. You need to be perfect according to our rules before you come–and then get better!

Grace says, join us first. Discover grace. We’ll get better together.

He Came To Set Us Free

December 23, 2015

“He had come to set people free, and like Moses with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, he was confronting the powers that held people captive.” — N T Wright, Simply Good News

We are only a couple of days from celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world. It’s not really his birthday, as some sects believe and shun the day. It’s not a pagan holiday, at least for us, but it was certainly adopted as an alternative to the pagan Roman holiday celebrated about the same time.

I don’t care about all that. We just simply celebrate the coming.

Why did he come?

I like what NT Wright says in Simply Good News, “He had come to set the people free.” Pope Benedict XVI wrote essentially the same theme in his book titled, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

I like the Gospels–Mark for his great literary style of simplicity and movement; Luke for his attention to detail and lifting up women and the Holy Spirit; John for his devotion.

But Paul captures this idea of freedom especially in his letter to the Galatians. “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”

I’ve come to see among a great number of Protestant denominations and even among some Catholics the tendency to have it all in the head. It’s agreeing with the right statements, saying the right things, judging people according to whatever law they ascribe to. And the number of people searching the scriptures for hidden meanings and fortune-telling the future simply amazes me.

When I was young, I wanted to be an “intellectual”, whatever that meant. I studied broadly into different fields of inquiry. By personality, I’m one who thinks too much.

What I’ve learned is that most of us think way too much. The meaning is right there in front of us in plain sight just waiting for us to see.

Jesus began his ministry quoting, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“Release to the captives!” Who are they? They are us–all of us. Paul would say we once were captive, but now we’re free.

Who wouldn’t want to go out into the world teaching this? Why do we corrupt the message with too much other stuff?

Jesus came, now we are free.

Curiosity Is The Foundation of Learning

November 9, 2015

How could you draw that smile (on the Mona Lisa)? How do you draw? What do you know how to draw? How do they paint the Eiffel Tower? Do they tie ropes to the guys? Why can’t they make a light bulb that lasts longer? Why can’t they make a better battery? How did they know about waves in the air when they invented them to make a radio?

That wasn’t even the entire conversation with my 8-yr-old grandson. I just asked him about his trip to Paris.

I told him that the world is filled with problems to solve. That’s why we need engineers and scientists.

I’m worried that school will kill some of that curiosity, but that’s another story.

The thing is–he’s always been curious. At 18 months taking a walk down the street could take a long time as we stopped explore all manner of things.

The conference I attended a few weeks ago featured a keynote speaker called Michael Gelb. He wrote a book, “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.” It is a fascinating book about a fascinating guy.

The first of seven characteristics–Curiosity.

What is that doing in a spiritual discipline blog?

Think of all the curiosity in the New Testament.

All of the original 12 close disciples were curious about Jesus. Who is that guy? Paul at first was opposed, then he too wondered, “Who is that guy?”

Paul also had to answer the question, Now what do we do after we believe? (Hint: Love the Lord and love your neighbor.)

I’m incessantly curious–what is God trying to say to me? What does the Bible say? What should I be doing? Why do people act that way? How can I help? What can I do to serve?

Curiosity can be a powerful spiritual discipline. It keeps us from becoming complacent.

Have We Become Voyeurs

October 28, 2015

One of my Spiritual Disciplines is fasting–fasting from TV news, that is.

No, I’m not a flaming conservative who thinks all the media has a liberal bias. Nor do I think about whether there is a conservative bias. TV news has a distinct sensationalism bias.

It’s all about how each network can get the largest number of people to watch for a long enough period of time to serve up plenty of advertisements. Don’t kid yourselves. You get sucked in to your news source of choice because they have figured out ways to get you to watch. This is simply a business model.

We fall for it.

The TV in front of me the other day while I was running on the treadmill showed off some so-called “expert” speculating about the motives or mental health of someone who injured and killed a number of people with her out-of-control car.

What good was that speculation? There was no fact discussed. Merely opinion. And not even informed opinion. Just the fantasy of speculation about someone they don’t know and really don’t care about. And a million people watched it. I even read the closed caption for about a minute to see what was up.

This is what you get when someone thinks that showing news 24-hours-per-day is a good thing. They quickly discovered that filling all that time with valuable information was either too costly or too boring. They have to hook you and reel you in. Not enough viewers means not enough advertising which means not enough revenue.

But people watch. And not just in North America. It’s a human trait.

Why do we get so wrapped up in idle gossip and speculation about others when there is so much of ourselves that we need to pay attention to? Maybe that’s too hard.

Practice the Spiritual Discipline of fasting from TV news. You might just discover your blood pressure dropping, your emotions more centered, your friends and family more understanding, and your attention fixed upon others whom you can love and serve. I call that a good thing.

Do You Want To Get Lucky

August 27, 2015

An old joke from the Newhart Show set in Vermont. The handyman, Tom Poston, finds a stray dog and takes him in. He names the dog Lucky, because he is, well, lucky to have a home.

Enter Stephanie, the cute young woman. Says Poston in his dry voice and deadpan face, “Stephanie, if you’re ever feeling lonely, you can come to my room and get Lucky.” <badda boom>

I have a fried who has moved from writing about technology and business to writing about life. He’s questioning his Catholic precedents right now. Happens to all of us at some time, I guess.

His latest writing was on getting lucky.

Are some people just lucky?

Are they lucky because they have a positive mental attitude?

Are they not lucky but practice “active consciousness” bringing good things into their lives (he read a book).

Two answers

I go with two answers.

First is the obviously practical. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

If you get the opportunity to speak on a subject or finally play an instrument in the orchestra, then you had better have been practicing for years so that you can succeed.

Second is not so obviously practical–but in effect it is.

You still need preparations–the disciplines of study, practice, prayer, service.

However, you also need to pray with intention. Not just wishful thinking. Not just vague prayers to God.

No. It is the hard work of prayer. It is engaging your mind and strength and soul in prayer. You have intention. You pray on purpose, with purpose.

You pray, “God please bring a person into my life who….” Maybe it’s someone to whom you can share the gospel message. Someone who offers a chance at a service or ministry you’ve been searching for. Someone who needs a mentor or friend.

Or you pray, “Lord, I feel you nudging me toward a mission, a ministry. Open my eyes and show me the ministry you have in mind for me.” I did that over the  space of a year or more. Then I got a phone call.

Lucky? Or good? Or, ready when God calls?